Abram was not completely surprised when Sarai proposed her idea. He couldn’t say it hadn’t crossed his mind.
The last time God visited, he had come in a vision saying, “Abram, your reward will be very great.”
Abram had blurted out, “Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” It was the elephant in the room, and he just couldn’t ignore it any longer. Once he started, the words poured out, “Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Abram fell silent. He had said too much.
But God had not been angry. He had simply declared, “This man will not be your heir, but a son who will come from your own body will be your heir.” Then the Lord had taken Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have.” Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”
When Abram asked, “Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?” the Lord directed him to prepare the animals for a blood covenant. Abram remembered slaughtering the animals, cutting them in half and laying the pieces side by side. He remembered the coppery smell of blood and the dark shadows of the vultures circling overhead, their sharp talons outstretched as they swooped past him. Abram had run towards them, shouting and waving his arms, until he was exhausted. As the sun set, Abram fell into a deep sleep, a terrifying darkness descending on him.
Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
Then the sun dropped behind the horizon, and in the darkness Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. The Lord himself was making a covenant with Abram that day saying, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River— the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
So he had waited. But the months had turned into years, and after ten years, still nothing.
Sarai came to him on a particularly quiet afternoon. “You know my maid, Hagar,” she said. She was the Egyptian girl Sarai had chosen for her personal maid. Abram nodded, waiting for her to continue. “Well, I’ve been thinking … .“ Sarai hesitated. “I was thinking we’ve been waiting a long time, Abram.” She looked up at him through her lashes, trying to get a read on his reaction. But his face revealed nothing. “I’ve been thinking you should get her pregnant and she’ll have the baby for me, for us.” The last bit came out in a rush, so she could not take back the words. It was better this way.
Abram did not answer immediately. God had said the heir would come from his own body, and until now he had just assumed, or hoped, Sarai would be the mother. But perhaps this had been God’s plan all along? “Well,“ Abram said, “if you’re sure that’s what you want.”
What happened next:
The Big Idea, Part 2
What came before:
Abram & Sarai | A Love, a Lie, and a Promise: Part 2
Note: Though I try to remain faithful to the events and characters as described in the Bible, I take some liberties where the Bible is silent, especially regarding what the characters might have thought or felt. I encourage you to read the original story to separate fact from fiction.